The composer Anna Clyne and I got together yesterday evening to catch up, and since we were at my place, and there were microphones lying around, we decided to make a track. I met Anna at the University of Edinburgh when I was 19 or so, when she got me to sing on one of her first compositions, a knotty choral thing where the time signature changed every bar (and they were short bars, too). She’s now the composer in residence of the Chicago Symphony, and has been making some awesome music.
Here’s what we came up with — it ended up sounding like some kind of post-modern tribal thing, with Moby Dick and Beckett thrown in. We used whatever was close at hand.
It’s always so interesting to me to see what direction different collaborations lead you in. Gary Peacock asked me last year to make a duo record with him, and we’re going into the studio tomorrow. That music will be totally different from the above, for sure, and yet I like to think that there’s a common thread, that the difference just reflects the fact that my voice would have a slightly different tone in a conversation with Gary than it would in a conversation with Anna, and that we’d most likely be talking about different things in the first place. And even if we were to talk about exactly the same thing, the rhythm of the conversation, and the language used, would be different, simply because Gary and Anna are two different people and they each bring out different aspects of myself.
Selfishly speaking, I sometimes think of friends as variously tinted mirrors: they each reflect a unique image of myself. That’s why solitary confinement is the most extreme form of torture there is: without these external mirrors that are other people, a person loses all sense of self (Atul Gawande wrote about this at length in the New Yorker a couple years ago; it’s worth reading). We see ourselves through other people, and we can sometimes hear ourselves through our collaborators, too.